Thursday, May 21, 2015
People lined up outside the United States Lines shipping office, hoping for a place on a United States-bound ship. Photo courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryPeople lined up outside the United States Lines shipping office, hoping for a place on a United States-bound ship. Photo courtesy of Schlesinger Library

Nona Baldwin Brown (1918–2014) was one of the first woman cub reporters for the city section of the New York Times in the 1940s. Before starting her career after graduating from Vassar College, she traveled throughout England, Germany, Switzerland, and France in the summer of 1939. Yet her vacation came to an abrupt end on September 3 when Britain and France declared war on Germany.

Brown was forced to gather with thousands of other Americans outside shipping companies, hoping for a ticket onboard a ship heading back to the United States. She was able to obtain passage on the SS Washington along with many others, including members of the Kennedy family.

Brown documented her trip with photographs; people lining up for passage back, luggage being processed, people milling on deck during the cruise, etc. Some of the more interesting photographs are those taken before the ship set sail: of the ship being hastily painted with American flags in multiple places to indicate that it was a neutral vessel, to avoid being torpedoed by enemy ships.

At the age of 94, Brown published a memoir, Through the Opening Door: My Pioneering Journey in Mainstream Journalism (2012). Nona Baldwin Brown's memoir and papers are available at the Schlesinger Library.

Nona Baldwin Brown on the deck of the SS Washington. Photo courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryNona Baldwin Brown on the deck of the SS Washington. Photo courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryPassengers, including Nona Baldwin Brown with Kathleen and Bobby Kennedy, amused themselves with dances and volleyball games on the top deck of the SS Washington. Photo courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryPassengers, including Nona Baldwin Brown with Kathleen and Bobby Kennedy, amused themselves with dances and volleyball games on the top deck of the SS Washington. Photo courtesy of Schlesinger Library
Author: 
Stacey Flatt